4 Reasons HR Needs to Embrace Internal Mobility in 2022

December 28, 2021 Mervyn Dinnen

two people handshaking while one person smilesTalent retention is top of mind for all organizations. Daily reports of skills shortages and worries of how they might lose the people they need as part of the Great Resignation are keeping talent concerns top of mind for HR leaders and managers.

But it wasn’t always like this. In the post-WW2 era through to the 1980s, as global economies were rebuilt and organizations grew, companies effectively offered their people a “job for life.” Employees could join as trainees and progress through to either manager or director or work within a specialism. It was rare that someone would need to leave and join another organization to progress their career. Research from Wharton Business School’s Peter Capelli and Matthew Bidwell showed that almost 90% of corporate vacancies then were filled through internal promotions and lateral assignments.

Today, things are a bit different. Less than 30% of companies see internal hires as an effective hiring channel, resulting in Deloitte’s 2019 Global Human Capital Trends survey revealing that almost 60% of employees say it is easier to find a new role at another company than it is to change roles at their current employer. This was corroborated by my own 2021 research with Actus which found almost two-thirds of HR respondents admitting that employees often leave their businesses to take on roles that could have been offered to them internally, had they known about them or been considered.

Many businesses are so fixated on external hiring that their people must leave to get the development they need. This is a missed opportunity, as research regularly shows the number one reason people join and stay with a business is because they want to learn, grow, and develop new skills and capabilities.

Unsurprisingly, skills-based hiring has moved rapidly up HR’s agenda, as recent developments such as the COVID-19 pandemic have led to many people identifying the need to develop new skills and capabilities. If you want to retain your people and help them develop, internal mobility needs to re-emerge as an HR priority. It is good for business and good for engagement, and there are four key reasons why we need to embrace it now:

1. Tackling the Great Resignation

Whether we like it or not, there is little doubt that the current job market is fluid. People are quitting roles in increasing numbers, looking for new challenges and opportunities. For some, the events of the last two years have prompted a change in priorities, and for others a change in direction. To retain the talent you have, you need to show your organization can help them achieve whatever they want, and this starts by offering the opportunity to change roles and up-skill.

Oftentimes, the problem is lack of visibility into internal openings. Make sure all vacancies are visible internally, clearly showing the skills needed and the opportunities for future growth.

2. Filling skills gaps

In 2020 the World Economic Forum forecast that 40% of current workers’ core skills are expected to change in the next five years, and 50% of employees will need re-skilling by 2025. You already have people on board who want to learn. It doesn’t make sense to let them leave and face tight and challenging recruitment markets to replace them.

Prioritizing internal mobility enables you to retain your people and ensures they develop the skills and capabilities necessary to meet critical business needs in the coming years.

3. Using talent intelligence data

Employee data used to be siloed, kept by managers who didn’t want to lose their best people to other parts of the business. Now HR tech systems create and store data at an exponential rate, allowing anyone to access existing employees’ performance, skills, capabilities, and learning data in one place. You no longer need to only rely on inward-facing people analytics, as Talent Intelligence platforms can focus on many strands of data, both internal and external.

Using AI, true talent intelligence enables workers to be moved effectively around the business, allowing them to develop in areas where their skills and capabilities align, and in which they may have a true passion to learn more.

4. Supporting a culture of recognition

If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the last two years, it’s that connection matters; and key to creating connection and engagement is having a culture of recognition. One of the strongest messages you can give is “I believe in you.”

Believing in your people means investing in them and offering opportunities to take on new challenges. External hiring can often damage the bond that an employee has with their team or leader, especially if they take it as a sign that their abilities and hopes for future progression are not being recognized.

By embracing a culture of internal mobility, organizations show they have faith in their people and will support them in achieving their goals and reaching their potential.


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About the Author

Mervyn Dinnen

Mervyn is an HR and talent analyst, researching the emerging trends that impact hiring, development, and retention. He is author of the books “Exceptional Talent” and “Digital Talent.”